SONNY ROLLINS INTERVIEWED (2011): The old lion still prowling

 |   |  1 min read

SONNY ROLLINS INTERVIEWED (2011): The old lion still prowling

Gary Giddins, America's most authoritative jazz critic, said of tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins that he was “one of the last immortals, the most powerful presence in jazz today. He is its most cunning, surprising, and unpredictable improviser – the one musician whose infrequent concert appearances foster intense anticipation and heated postmortems”.

Giddins wrote that in 1996 and Rollins -- an old lion at 80 -- is still at large, scheduled to play in Wellington in June, and is even now picked up accolades. In 2001 he won a jazz Grammy for his album with the self-effacing title This is What I Do and three years later was given a Lifetime Achievement award. In 2006 he picked up another Grammy for Why Was I Born? on his 9/11 tribute album Without a Song – recorded just five days after the World Trade Centre fell -- and the same year won three Down Beat magazine awards.

“I stayed alive long enough that they finally had to come around to me,” he laughs. “I say that because so many of my contemporaries were never really honoured properly. But I'm glad they honour me because they are honouring jazz, not me, and the great musicians I learned from. So I accept them, they're very tardy in recogising jazz.”

The New York jazz world in the Fifties wasn't slow in acknowledging Theodore “Sonny” Rollins however. In his late teens he was playing alongside pianist Bud Powell and by his mid 20s – after 10 months in prison for armed robbery then methadone treatment for a heroin habit – he took to bandstands with Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and other legends in the making . . .

This is an extract from an article which appeared in the New Zealand Listener. For the full story go here.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Jazz articles index

Stephan Micus: Panagia (ECM/Ode)

Stephan Micus: Panagia (ECM/Ode)

In a previous profile of the German-born musician Stephan Micus (here), I noted that his musical journey has run parallel to a deeply spiritual one and this album -- his 20th for ECM, settings of... > Read more

CHARLES MINGUS, PITHECANTHROPUS ERECTUS IN 1956: Man standing up tall

CHARLES MINGUS, PITHECANTHROPUS ERECTUS IN 1956: Man standing up tall

By the time Charles Mingus died in 1979 at 56, most of the obituaries had already been prepared. Mingus, suffering the increasingly debilitating Lou Gehrig's disease, hadn't been able to walk or... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

GUEST MUSICIAN ADAM McGRATH OF THE EASTERN on what drives their new album, The Territory

GUEST MUSICIAN ADAM McGRATH OF THE EASTERN on what drives their new album, The Territory

It'd be good to know exactly where it's at. I mean the what it is, the what it was and what it shall be, are hard enough but the elusive “where it's at” creates all kinds of... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . RAY CATHODE: Electronic pioneer or just another knob twiddler?

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . RAY CATHODE: Electronic pioneer or just another knob twiddler?

In the encyclopedias of electronic music one name stands out for its absence, that of the British experimenter, producer and musician Ray Cathode who, in the very early Sixties, made two... > Read more